The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

August 14, 2009

UPDATE: Stimulus cash helps health centers

By Tom Davidson

Looking for concrete evidence that the $780 billion stimulus package is doing something here? Look at improvements to Primary Health Network at several of its offices in the region.

They’re the result of $3.2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie, D-3rd District, touted in a stop Thursday at Primary Health Network’s Jamestown Health Center.

“This money was put right to work,” Mrs. Dahlkemper’s spokesman Zac Petkanas said.

The federal cash allow the health care provider to move forward with expansion and improvements more quickly than it could otherwise, according to PHN Chief Executive Officer Jack Laeng.

“We may have been able to do them, but we would have to put them on a different timeline,” Laeng said.

The cash let PHN “jumpstart the process,” Laeng said.

It means improved care for PHN patients and more jobs for health care professionals in the area. PHN employs about 380 people and because of the ARRA money will have 440 by January 2010, Laeng said.

Thursday’s event spotlighted the funding already used to hire additional staff and construct new exam rooms and class spaces at Jamestown Health Center.

“Primary Health Network is the safety net provider in all of the communities where we have community health centers. We provide needed health care for people who are ill, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Laeng.

PHN received $773, 866 in the first round of ARRA funding devoted to Increased Demand for Service, of which 57 percent will be spent in Mrs. Dahlkemper’s district.

This funding covers the salaries of three new support staff members and an internal medicine physician at the Jamestown Health Center. A portion of the salaries will also be allocated for rotating midwifery and obstetrics/gynecology providers to the health centers in Jamestown, Mercer and Sheakleyville.

During the second round of ARRA funding, the Capital Improvement Project, PHN received an additional $2.4 million for facility improvements at 15 of their 28 sites as well as monies for improvements to its computer network.

The following projects will receive funding in Congresswoman Dahlkemper’s 3rd Congressional District:

• $110,600 for renovations at Petroleum Valley Medical Center in Butler County

Mercer County projects include:

• $75,600 for improvements at Sharon Medical Group.

• $42,600 for renovations at PHN Park Place in Farrell.

• $145,000 for improvements at Green Street Primary Care Building A in Farrell.

• $37,400 for renovations at Farrell Health Center.

• $23,900 for renovations at Transfer Health Center.

• $386,000 for an addition to Mercer Primary Care.

• $384,000 for an addition to Jamestown Health Center — included are additional exam rooms and an area for health education, exercise and nutrition classes under the auspices of our complementary medicine program.

• $124,715 towards improvements to information technology.

PHN, a Federally Qualified Health Center based in Sharon, provides primary care services and access to specialty care commensurate with the needs of the people in the communities it serves. Services are offered regardless of age, race, creed, sex, national origin or ability to pay.